Monday, 18 October 2021

Landlords appeal for community to buy pub

THE Crown Inn in Benson could become a community-owned pub.

THE Crown Inn in Benson could become a community-owned pub.

The parish council is to consider the idea after being told by landlady Germaine Cullimore that she and her husband Tim can no longer make a living from the business.

The High Street pub is currently owned by Suffolk brewer Greene King.

Mrs Cullimore attended a council meeting and told members that the couple could pay the business rates, their rent and the four staff but couldn’t make a living from the pub themselves, even though they worked 16 hours a day.

There needed to be a “serious review” of the rent and business rates.

Mrs Cullimore, 48, said the pub had been in a “very bad state” when she and her husband took over in July 2013. They refurbished the six rooms and redecorated the bar and restaurant.

Now they were beginning to enjoy it and wanted to remain in the village, she said. There was 100 per cent occupancy of the rooms and the restaurant at its busiest had 30 to 40 diners.

Mrs Cullimore said the couple would prefer the building to belong to the community.

Mr Cullimore, 55, who has worked in the hotel and restaurant business for 30 years, said: “When we’re at maximum business we’re still not making any profit. That’s not to say we’re at maximum business all the time. The business is going as well as can be expected.

“We have been nicely busy over Christmas and New Year and the bar has become an intrinsic part of the community. Now we have families coming in and we have elderly people, which was never the case before.”

The pub has been listed as an asset of community value, meaning Greene King must give locals the opportunity to buy it before it goes on the open market, although the company doesn’t have to accept any bid. The pub is currently not for sale.

Council chairman Jon Fowler said the council could pursue the idea of a community-run pub or face the prospect of the turnover of tenants continuing indefinitely.

He suggested inviting a representative of Pub is the Hub, specialist voluntary advisors for rural pubs and licensees, to a council meeting.

The council should also consult with the community on a potential business model. “I think we need to understand what we can and cannot do,” said Councillor Fowler. “We wouldn’t be taking it on and running it or anything but we would try to get support in the village.”

A Greene King spokeswoman said the company was committed to the long-term future of the pub, adding: “With a great-looking pub and supportive community, we are confident the business will flourish and we are working with our tenants to ensure that the business is viable.”

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